Thousands of faithful packed the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles Dec. 11 in a celebration honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe that culminated with midnight Mass celebrated by Archbishop José H. Gomez. The celebration marks 15 years of honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe at the Cathedral since its inception in 2002.

“This is always a special night for me. On this night, we know, in a beautiful way, that the Blessed Virgin Mary is truly our mother, who loves us and protects us,” said Archbishop Gomez. “This year, we will be praying also for our brothers and sisters who are suffering because of the wildfires, and also for all those young people and families who are anxiously waiting for Congress to act on immigration reform, especially to help the Dreamers. We entrust everyone in our community to the maternal tenderness of Our Lady of Guadalupe.”

The celebration was held on the eve of the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, December 11, follows a tradition in Mexico City where millions gather at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe where the tilma (cloak of St. Juan Diego where the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe miraculously appeared) is displayed. A half-inch square relic of the tilma, the only piece in the United States, is enshrined at a gilded chapel inside the cathedral.

The celebration began on the Cathedral Plaza at 6 p.m. with Aztec and Matachines dancers, and performance of the Banda Herencia Zoochilena, an Oaxacan band formed by children age 6-20 from St. Emydius Parish in Lynwood. During this time, the faithful venerated the tilma relic offering prayers and flowers.

At 10 p.m., the celebration moved inside the Cathedral for a Rosary led by emcee Ernesto Vega; radio personality Carlos Alvarez; Cathedral High School student Daniel Martinez, and other invited guests, accompanied by Cathedral’s Spanish Choir.

Mariachi Los Toros and guest singers serenaded the Virgin and sang “Las Mañanitas,” a traditional Mexican birthday song to honor the Virgin on her Feast Day. This year’s musical tribute, or serenata, included performers Mexican Regional singer Graciela Beltran, singer and actress Rozenda Bernal, winner of Telemundo’s contest La Voz Kids Angelito Garcia, 15-year-old soprano Angel Ng, and Mexican Regional singers Alfredo Sicairos and Osbaldo Lopez.

The festivities concluded with midnight Mass presided by Archbishop Gomez.

The celebration recalls the apparitions of the Virgin Mary to St. Juan Diego at Tepeyac, Mexico, in December 1531, when she left her image on his tilma, or cloak. A relic, or piece of the tilma inside the Cathedral was a present to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles from the Archbishop of Mexico City in appreciation and friendship after Los Angeles Archbishop John J. Cantwell led a pilgrimage to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City in the early 1940s. Given the natural agave fibers used to make the tilma, experts say it is miraculous that the relic at the Cathedral in Los Angeles, and the rest of the tilma in Mexico City, have survived for almost five centuries.

The celebration was possible with the support of Catholic Communication Collaboration (C3) and Sprint, Catholic Cemeteries and Mortuaries, Amapola Deli & Market, Tacos El Gavilán, Vallarta Supermarkets, Inc., Guadalupe Radio, and EWTN Español. For more information, visit http://www.olacathedral.org/guadalupe.